Smog over Beijing where a red alert for air pollution has been issued. Photo: Reuters
Smog over Beijing where a red alert for air pollution has been issued. Photo: Reuters

Hair spray, perfume and air refresher are being blamed by some people in China for the blanket of smog shrouding the capital of Beijing on Monday.

They claim these compounds make up to 12% of the fine suspended particulate matter that permeates Beijing’s chocking air. Some have even gone as far as calling for a ban or restrictions on the sale and use of aerosols like perfume, hair gel, cleaning agents, etc.

Among those calling for a ban is Wang Gengchen, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Atmospheric Physics Institute, according to a report by the Beijing-based Global Times.

Wang told the paper that although these volatile organic compounds would not lead to immediate surges in PM2.5 readings – the measure used to check the quality of air – they could still generate particle pollutants through a chain of physical and chemical reactions over time.

The Monument to the People’s Heroes on Tiananmen Square shrouded in smog in Beijing, where extreme air pollution is forcing the government to take measures to reduce emissions. Photo: iStock
The PM 2.5 reading in Beijing reached 193, an unhealthy level, at 5pm on Monday. Photo:

Before the Beijing Olympics in 2008, even laundry shops in Beijing were told to suspend business as part of the central government’s all-out efforts to “engineer” blue skies for the sports extravaganza.

In May, Xinhua cited a Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau report as saying that “non-industrial emissions from residents’ activities” accounted for 12% of the city’s total, which almost equalled the share of industrial pollutants.

The report defied the common perception that smoke and exhaust gas from the capital city’s 5.64 million vehicles and those from coal-fired power plants and factories in neighboring Hebei and Shanxi provinces as well as sand storms from deserts in Inner Mongolia contribute the most to the dark, squalid mess of dust that blankets Beijing in the winter months.

The news agency also prodded policymakers to deal with indirect pollution sources since strict measures have already been implemented on vehicle emissions and the use of coal for years.

Yet few residents buy the theory that their use of perfume and hair gel also pollutes the air, with many ridiculing the idea in online forums and social networking platforms that perhaps the next step for experts and party cadres is to ban cooking and the use of candles, as the two may also emit a lot of pollutants.

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